Like blowing out that last birthday candle, Mitch McConnell is going to get his wish.
For the remainder of 2016, no one will occupy the seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia. No concession will be made to a lame-duck president. That nominee won’t get a sniff of a hearing room.
Such joyous Republican news comes with an advisory, however:
Enjoy the cake, the balloons and the party hats, Mr. Senate Majority Leader, because in your revelry and obstinacy you increase the odds that when a new year dawns we’ll address you as Mr. Senate Minority Leader.
Meanwhile, on another significant political front, your latest gambit (Sen. Harry Reid terms it “obstruction on steroids”) is going to help more Americans understand why they need an experienced consensus-seeker rather than a hotel-suite bomb-thrower for president.
Back to the Senate and the court. It is quite magnanimous for Republicans to say, as McConnell did, that voters “should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.” That, of course, they did, in electing Barack Obama to appoint justices. They did it once, and they did it again.
On the Senate floor, Sen. Al Franken suggested that the GOP leaders appear to have enacted a new rule to “lop off the last year” of a presidency.
Franken added, “If only the American people had a voice in deciding precisely how much we should shave off a president’s term.”
Of course, we have that option. It’s called a constitutional amendment. Go for it, suggested Franken. Put that one before the voters. Let them speak.
Here’s what Washington Post columnist James Hohman predicts the voters are going to say this year: Blocking Obama from doing his job is going to make it more likely that Republicans will lose the Senate.
“Assuming the president picks a Hispanic, African American or Asian American – bonus points if she’s a woman – this could be exactly what Democrats need to re-activate the Obama coalition that fueled his victories in 2008 and 2012,” writes Hohman.
The fact is that this year the Senate is there for the Dems to retake after an off-year election in which just about every contested race with a Democratic incumbent was in a state that had gone red in 2012.
This year seven Senate incumbents face challenges in states that Obama won twice — Florida, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Democrats need to win five of them and then prevail in safer states where their incumbents are on the ballot.
None of this is a sure thing, but Obama stands to have a mighty poster child – the Supreme Court nominee soon to be introduced — to show the nation that things need to change and the GOP way of obstruction and division is not the way.
All the while, that nominee will be a sympathetic victim of politics most venal. That nominee will be seen as a political martyr.
One scenario many people don’t seem to consider is that this attractive, willing, able nominee could remain, waiting patiently, judiciously, right through the next election — to be re-nominated by Obama’s Democratic successor.
That would be the ultimate nightmare for those who, like McConnell and Ted Cruz, put partisan bloodlust over every other concern they might have had in Congress. At that point, hara-kiri might be in order.
Based on this scenario, McConnell goes down in history as the Senate majority leader who failed in meeting his No. 1 legislative objective (depriving Obama of two terms). Then he helped lose the Senate, hence failing ultimately to block that still-nominated Obama Supreme Court nominee. Oh, and he helped elect a Democrat to hold the White House well into the 2020s.
This is called reverse obstruction.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.